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Film / The Duff

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The Duff (stylized as The DUFF) is a 2015 American teen comedy film directed by Ari Sandel and written by Josh A. Cagan, based on the novel of the same name by Kody Keplinger. The film stars Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca Santos, Skyler Samuels, Ken Jeong, and Allison Janney.

Bianca (Whitman) is an intelligent, suburban, white, American, self-respecting teenage girl who doesn't conform to societal standards of beauty and romantic compatibility. Bianca is insulted and devastated when Wes (Amell), football player and on-again/off-again boyfriend of Madison (Thorne), says she's the titular Designated Ugly Fat Friend - but she soon realizes that Wes is right; the students in her high school are only interested in her as a way to get to her beautiful friends Jess (Samuels) and Casey (Santos). She takes her anger out on her friends and 'unfriends' them on social media and in person...

The novel is later followed up by LOL: Lying Out Loud.

The DUFF exhibits these tropes:

  • Academic Athlete: Wesley, in the novel. He has a GPA of 3.95 and is 3rd in the class, while keeping a bookcase with books by Henry Fielding, James Patterson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. This contrasts with how he is in the movie.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Redheaded Bianca and blonde Casey become brunettes in the film.
  • Alpha Bitch: Madison. Her life seems to revolve around keeping the supposed "losers" down and getting herself a trophy boyfriend who would ensure her social status.
  • An Aesop: The theme of the movie seems to be "Don't let labels define you."
  • Asian and Nerdy: Mr. Arthur is East Asian and revealed he was called an "Aurkel": Asian Urkel in high school.
  • Bad Influencer: The Alpha Bitch Madison (who is not in the book) is a vlogger who forces Beta Bitch Caitlin to film her at times.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Basically how Bianca and her friends are described in the beginning. Jess is "the kind one" and The Fashionista (beauty), Bianca is a geeky honor student (brains), Casey is "the tough one" and very athletic (brawn, though she's also considered a beauty).
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: This is Bianca's relationship with Wes at first, with tons of snark and insults tossed between them. As the movie progresses, however, the belligerence disappears, veering the two of them straight into Twice Shy territory.
  • Beta Bitch: Caitlin is the mean-spirited minion to Madison, the resident Alpha Bitch. She also serves as The Dragon to Madison and films Bianca twice to humiliate her.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Wesley in "LOL" where he picks up on something going wrong between his younger sister Amy and her friend Sonny, even consoling Sonny about kissing and making up.
  • Book Ends: The opening monologue of the movie is exactly the first sentences from Bianca's final article, which is also her closing monologue.
  • Brainless Beauty: Wes is a downplayed version. He's a handsome, charming guy who has little talent for or interest in intellectual pursuits and he is a bit of an airhead in other ways. However he's far from cartoonishly stupid and he does have a much stronger grasp of the unwritten social rules of high school and of fashion than the otherwise much brainier Bianca.
  • Brainy Brunette: Bianca in the movie has dark brown hair and is an honor student; Casey is dark-haired and she is a computer hacker.
  • Butt-Monkey: Bianca. She is always being ignored in favor of her much more popular best friends. At one point she's humiliated in front of everyone and becomes the school's resident laughingstock. She finally gets a date with her crush, Toby, but later finds out he was just using her in order to connect with her friends Jess and Casey, just like everyone else.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Wesley and Bianca. They were next-door neighbours and grew up together, until Wes became a Dumb Jock who annoyed the hell out of Bianca. After Bianca got transformed from a shy DUFF to a bright, beautiful girl, with Wes’ help nonetheless, the two end up together.
  • Class Princess: Bianca's friends Jess and Casey, who, despite being devastatingly attractive and largely popular, don't exhibit any bitchy traits.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Arthur. Though a tad eccentric, he's the only teacher who doesn't hate his students, lust after them, or overreact to every little thing. He's even cool enough to brush it off when Bianca tells him to eat a dick when she mistakes him for another student who was going to tease her.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The outtakes are presented on various screens, and (most of) the cast and crew have their Twitter handles accompanying their credits. The credits is also shown in the style of various social media websites and apps, including Vine, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat.
  • Curse Cut Short: The second time Bianca imagines Wes being there, he recites a poem which she cuts off before he says the thing that rhymes with "Tucker".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bianca's wit is as sharp as a razor. One memorable example occurs when she invades the boy's locker room, and one of them (wearing nothing but briefs) asks "Whoa, Bianca, what the hell is this?" she replies, "Oh, well, it kinda looks like a penis, only smaller."
  • Didn't Think This Through: Principal Buchanan immediately regrets taking all of his students' phones when they start ringing simultaneously in their boxes.
  • Dumb Jock: Wes, whose football scholarship will be lost if he doesn't pass chemistry. He doesn't seem to have a very good grasp on any intellectual activity or even the English language, but is very competent in a field of popularity.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Bianca really takes her sweet time admiring Wes' body when she barges into the locker room, especially when he Pec Flexes.
  • Evil Counterpart: Madison is this to both Jess and Casey. Like them, she's gorgeous and popular, but Jess and Casey are nice girls who deserve their popularity, while Madison is the epitome of the Alpha Bitch.
  • Film of the Book: It's a somewhat loose adaptation of the book by Kody Keplinger.
  • Fanservice: Wes provides quite a lot, but the entire sequence of Bianca walking through the boys' locker room is as well.
  • Fiery Redhead:
    • The sarcastic Bianca in the book notes herself as having wavy auburn hair.
    • Madison in the film is played by the strawberry blonde Bella Thorne and is very vicious.
  • A Friend in Need: Almost as if to prove that they truly consider Bianca a friend, despite her rejecting them, Jess and Casey hack into YouTube and delete Bianca's mannequin dance video.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Bianca looks up the meaning of "Duff" when Wes describes her as such, only to stumble upon Urban Dictionary's entry on "D.U.F.F." - an acronym which stands for "Designated Ugly Fat Friend".
  • Girls Like Musicians: Bianca has a huge crush on guitar-playing Toby.
  • Held Gaze: One happens between Wes and Bianca on the think rock which leads to a brief Big Damn Kiss.
  • High-School Dance: Homecoming. Very little importance is actually placed on it beyond Bianca having to write an article for the school paper about what it means to her. Although it's where the film's climax takes place, including Bianca finally getting Wes.
  • Hollywood Homely: Actively discussed In-Universe; it's pointed out that you don't actually have to be fat or ugly to be a "DUFF", you just need to be less conventionally attractive than whoever your friends are.
  • Imagine Spot: Several, all by Bianca. Most of them contain sexual scenes, like her making out with Toby. Some of her many reactions to Toby revealing he doesn't have feelings for her: vomiting, crying, screaming.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Despite being actually a decent guy, Wes has moments of this. He apparently thought calling Bianca "DUFF" which contains fat and ugly in it even though it's a from of brutal honesty about her status at school and bringing a girlfriend he goes on and off with to Bianca's secret hiding spot to have a date are good ideas until Bianca pointed it out to him and how she's hurt by it.
  • Instant Humiliation Just Add Youtube: Caitlyn caught Bianca having her little dance and action on the mannequin pretending it was Toby and later attempt to flirt with a bunch of guys, filmed it on her phone, later edited it to match the beat of Anaconda by Nicki Minaj and #Selfie by The Chainsmokers and uploaded it to YouTube and gained a viral hit just to humiliate Bianca further. Those videos got taken off later as cyberbullying though.
  • Jerk Jock: Subverted. Wes appears to be this initially, being introduced as an obnoxious, dumb, immature football captain who disses Bianca for her DUFF status but it turns out to be a case of Brutal Honesty. He's actually a pretty nice guy and remains quite helpful and loyal to Bianca throughout the movie, giving her social advice on how to stop being a DUFF.
  • Lady Killer In Love: Wes was a notorious womanizer until he predictably falls for his childhood friend Bianca towards the end of the film.
  • Little Black Dress: Subverted. Bianca dressed in one to the party with intention to get the guy but exposed her to the concept of "DUFF" and get pissed off instead, and she (and her friends) fired up the sewing machine to mix and match the LBD with her favorite black/red plaid T-shirt to create the Homecoming dress that she really shines in.
  • Lovable Jock:
    • What Wes really is. Despite being introduced as a stereotypical football jock in his first scenes, he is actually one of the few people who try to help Bianca in the movie.
    • Casey may count as a female example, being a soccer player. She may be tough, but she's not mean.
  • Misplaced Retribution:
    • After finding out that she's considered the DUFF, Bianca feels as though Jess and Casey have been using her to make themselves look good, and she lashes out at them and cut ties. In truth, they never thought of her as a DUFF and hung out with her because they were best friends.
    • When the principal confiscates everyone's phones until he gets to the bottom of who posted the humiliating video of Bianca, nasty comments are reserved for her for "narcing" (she didn't complain to the faculty, they heard about it on their own because, you know, viral video) and not the principal who issued the order or Caitlin and Madison, who posted the video and now aren't coming forward without even the slightest bit of remorse for how it hurts everyone else.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: In the book, tall Casey reveals she always felt she was the DUFF compared to the more petite Bianca, given that boys would want to take care of her.
  • Precision F-Strike: Dottie gets the movie's onlynote  F-word. It's both lampshaded and mocked. The movie already contains mild swearingnote , and Bianca even declares, "Let's do this shit!" but as soon as Dottie replies with "Fucking A," everyone looks at her in shock and she apologizes.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Wesley is a jock yet has a good handle on fashion and on how Bianca's bras aren't supportive nor flattering. He is the one that gives her fashion tips at the mall.
  • Rough Overalls: Mae Whitman's character, the titular 'duff', is known for wearing overalls to emphasize her 'Designated Ugly Fat Friend' status.
  • Shout-Out: The mean girls, Caitlin and Madison, seem to be named after Shelby's two friends from A Cinderella Story.
  • Spicy Latina: Casey Cordero is a feisty Latina hottie and tough girl. Sporty, very attractive, a clever hacker, and being described as a “fiery Latina” in-universe.
  • The Stinger: Some outtakes play during the credits.
  • Straw Loser:
    • Bianca and every "DUFF" by definition. Every group has a "Designated Ugly Fat Friend", a person who is less popular and more accessible compared to their better-looking friends. The term is purely relative, so someone that looks dowdy next their friends isn't necessarily fat OR ugly and may just look average or better by ordinary standards.
      Wes: Every group of friends has one. The one who doesn't look as good, thus making their friends look better. The one who's approachable and easy to talk to, because no one's trying to get in their pants.
    • Jess in the book back when Bianca and Casey met her, she was hanging around a group of popular girls who treated her as a DUFF until Bianca and Casey both invited her to join them. Jess has since blossomed.
  • Those Two Girls: Bianca's friends Jess and Casey. They always appear together.
  • Town Girls: With sweet-natured fashionista Jess as the femme, tough-as-nails hacker/athlete Casey as the butch, and smart honor student Bianca as the neither.
  • Trophy Wife:
    • Gender-inverted. Wes is this to Madison; she doesn't express any affection or respect to him, and she keeps him around for social status.
    • Inverted with "The DUFF" concept: basically you hang around people or a person that makes you look better in comparison. The book has Wesley comment that Bianca is not bad-looking and asks if she ever considered any less attractive girlfriends. She tells him off and states that she values her friends for something other than their beauty and popularity.
  • Wild Teen Party: Held by Madison on a weekday.